17 December, 2013

Blessed by a Monster

I have made friends with a monster.  I feel him today, sitting on my neck, unconcerned that his weight is making my head hurt.

His name is Expectation.

I am a marionette to him.  My hands and feet dance each time he tugs on me.  He masquerades behind the faces of people my heart loves, and in their voices he manipulates me.  Sometimes he gets bored of me and lays me aside like a forgotten toy and I sleep, for days, thankful for the rest.  But even this rest is a ploy, for inevitably it blinds me to The Work almost entirely, and makes me deficient in all things, not merely the imitations.  I feel like a blunted sword, whose thrusts never seem to hit the mark.

Sometimes, like today, his voice is gross in my ears: Dance, puppet.  Dance.

I resent him entirely.

In days gone by I confused his voice with excellence, with reputation, even with that of my Father.  So many of my contributions to the earth, that which I thought would be most celebrated, are nearly always entirely forgotten when his thick, choking voice was my motivation.  It is as if his entire point is to spend my energy and focus so entirely that I am useless for any meaningful new depth of Jesus.  Today his headache, his endless demands upon my flexibility, his thinly-veiled disappointment when I say yes or no against his will, are suffocating me of oxygen.

Jesus, be my Vision!  My soul is weeping for your perspective of me.

I feel like a jagged little pill, the enabler of every unprepared person in the world, the one who is constantly expected to tie together the loose ends that no one else wishes to mend.  My resentment of this, the very thing I am in fact gifted to do, testifies loudly to my tormentor.  He plays so closely along my identity that I often don't notice his con until my reserves are spent.  I am diversely gifted, but he shrouds my vision of those around me who are willing and able.  I am flexible, but his version of me pours the incomplete efforts of others upon my shoulders.  I am creative, but he suggests that I should be able to accept responsibility for every scenario that crosses my path.

I am willing to be completely spent, but only for Jesus, Who Is Worthy of It All.  In Him, the work of my heart is seed, is fruit, is life--planted in the right places, at the right time, always yielding Fruit.

My heart is not calling for the death of my monster friend.  In fact, he is accidentally causing me to know with firm conviction the authentic Voice.  His grating imitation carries such agony for my soul that I am galvanized further as His Beloved.  His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  His work, even the work that requires my complete self, my full investment, is life and recycles itself as fuel for my spirit.  His voice is gentle and never demanding, such that my rebellion never rises up to fight it.

Jesus, be my Vision.  Thank you for the monster of Expectation.  Thank you for allowing me to fully experience being tossed to-and-fro in his maelstrom.  Allow him to sit upon my neck and speak to me, so that You are so fully and beautifully revealed in his emptiness.  His torment adheres my Soul to You.

I am reaching out, through his facade, to Your reality.  I am Diane, the One You Love--the flexible, the gifted, the creative, the willing.  I am defined by You, and moved by You, and effective in You.

Be my Vision.  I am holding fast today--to You.  Blessed by a monster, who accidentally nestled me more deeply into You.

10 October, 2013

Closet of Fake Bravado

I have a civil war within my spirit.  I am an spiritual adolescent; this is made plain by how my inner dialogue is constantly warring against itself:

This is so difficult.  I have never felt more alone.
I can persist.  I can tell He's using this to make me stronger.
I celebrate this season!
I will finish.
I quit.
Lord, I'm all the way in.  Do your full work.
Jesus, I need relief.  All I see is darkness.
I trust Him.
I feel so sorry for myself.  No one sees how much I'm aching.
Purify and make me perfect--a true daughter.
I want to be like You.
I have no one to talk to. 
I don't want to talk to anyone.
I can't stand the idea of people feeling sorry for me.
Jesus, don't stop.
Jesus, don't stop...

And it's all simultaneously true.  Eye roll.

The process the Lord has initiated in our family bears his mark so completely that I cannot question it at all.  Even in the darkest days I can tell He's closer to me now than ever before.  I know in some ways He's really guarding me, because my emotions and feelings are so raw and vulnerable that I really do need a constant awareness of Him more than I need air.  There are recent days when He is the only place on earth for me...

I want to be (and often, genuinely am) the strong, steady, reliable one.  My nature is one that detests being the needy one, the broken one, or the insecure one--seasons in which I prefer to hide until they pass.  This preference towards perfection is weakness in me, that ensures that I never fully embrace my value to others.  The true revelation of my full value is the sum of myself, strengths and weaknesses, and all that it reveals about Jesus

I like to play myself as magnanimous and assured, as though words of love and encouragement don't echo in my mind for days after I get them.  I have an old voicemail I have never deleted, that I use to refill an empty tank.  When I say that sometimes one good genuine conversation is enough to get me out of bed in the morning, I'm not exaggerating.  My favorite cheesy acronym is one I heard several years ago: SPF  Specific Positive Feedback.  That phrase carries a rank of affection in me paramount to chocolate and epidurals.

Yesterday Sherri left me a bouquet of fall mums on my desk and her simple card was...I can't even say.  The reason her words sank so deep is because she knows me and invested her words in a simple affirmation of who I am and what I do--those things are inextricably linked, and she knows that about me.  She pierced through superficial to the eternal parts of me---she made my heart sing.  (I'm so grateful, Sherri--I love you.)  I almost feel bad singling her out--there are so many people who are treasures to me--she's just a recent example.

The thing that I struggle most with in relationships is in how to communicate when my tank has gone empty.  I seek out connection, but I flavor it with my trademark ambivalence and of course, carefully concealing my need.  I make grandiose gestures of service, hoping to earn a rave comment or two that will hold me over, like an addict who needs a fix and settles for the cheap stuff.

As the Lord ushers me through a season of advancement (read: process, crap, struggle, pain)...these self-sabotaging reflexes have been revealed to me in a way that feels like an exposed nerve.  This is compounded because He is working on several areas simultaneously (I'm talking serious surgery here folks--someone bring me some Vicodin), making it hard to think with any sort of direction or clarity.  One voice or another bubbles up to the surface based on who won the toss; it's frustrating to feel so little control.  But it has been an effective method of purification.  I can't tell you some of the disgusting things I've been throwing away.

Jesus loves my heart and he loves to live in it...and He's building on.  The construction has been painful and messy.   Stuff is everywhere.  My guts are exposed and some of them are being entirely relocated or remodeled.  It's fine--He can do whatever He wants, and honestly none of it is making any sense to me at the moment.  I've laid myself entirely upon this thing and I've closed my eyes.  Whether this takes another day or another ten years, I have no where else to be.

SO I write, to examine my heart as it is shuffled and changed and shaped anew.  As my fingers hit the keys, they tell me my own story and give me courage.  As sludge is exposed and bubbles out of me, like oil in water, I recognize it as the anti-me.  I part ways with my weaknesses and brokenness, and I make Him promise to give me ways to make all this worth it.

I know I wasn't formed to be a coward, living in this ridiculous closet of fake bravado.  I'm so glad He values me so much, to take me through seasons of such tremendous growth and training.  If you're going through a time of training like me, maybe writing this out will help you feel less alone, and maybe even honored.  I am engaged, with you.  I will finish with you.

Like you, I have no where else to be.

13 August, 2013

Rain For The Weeds

When Nick and I bought our home, we had a fenced-in back yard for the first time in our married life.  Think of the possibilities! I marvelled.  I thought the paver patio and pathway were so lovely.  I thought a raised bed seemed like a good idea and Nick, being the husband that he is, went to work for me one Saturday morning, building the frame and hauling loads of dirt to fill it.

Spring has this effect on me.  Each spring, I am excited to get outside and clean up my beds, pulling weeds, clearing piles of rotting leaves and edging.  The temperatures are warm and they thaw out my bones.  The sun deposits its energy in me and I can go for hours, or until my back hurts so badly that its time for a shower.  My kids toddle around and play.  It feels like therapy after the long dark winter, and I soak it in. 

The problem comes when summer arrives--with it, the punishing hot temperatures.  I have trouble prioritizing my outside tasks when I have inside ones just as important--and I can do those in the air conditioning. 

This year, with the primo summer growing conditions we're having here in south-central PA, some areas of weeds grew to a startling height.  I looked out my kitchen window (a side of the house we rarely visit from the outside) and realized I could see the tip-tops of weeds (and that window is probably eight feet off the ground).  Recently when filling out my to-do list, I simply wrote the word "jungle" under Nick's column--it was self explanatory.  Around here, weeds are not Nick's job.  To put it bluntly--he hates gardening.  But when they're tree-like and I can't yank them from the ground by grunt force, a sharp tool is required and it lands in Nick's court.  (He made quick work of it, and even spared my lillies).

The raised bed grew--we hadn't even gotten around to planting it this year, but it grew anyway--with weeds in creative variety.  Some sprawled out and covered massive areas.  Others stayed in one place but grew deep into the dirt.  Some were actually surprisingly beautiful.  I watched them grow, observing them from my back porch.  I knew the ground in that bed was hard and dry.  While I might successfully pull their tops off, I would have to wait for rain to soften the dirt before I could get them by their roots.  It was neither the day nor the time to stress about them.  So they grew high, filling the bed entirely.

The paver patio and pathway too, because the previous owner laid them improperly, welcome weeds with the slightest encouragement of sunshine.  The moist ground beneath the stones is a literal springboard for so many weeds.  I struggled to keep up, and when the hot summer arrived, I surrendered all together, except a small area close to the house where my conscience continued the fight (but the children!--where will they walk?!) 

Today, whether by random stroke of inspiration, or whatever, I realized it was mild enough outside to weed--and the soil was wet thanks to recent rainfall.  You realize, I wasn't anxiously watching the clouds.  As far as I'm concerned, if I don't get the weeds pulled, the snow will kill them and I will try again next year.

But I have guests coming this weekend and the weather forecast seems ideal for grilling out.  But the weeds.  So then I was resigned--just because I could tolerate seeing my own weeds didn't mean I wanted to welcome friends to the jungle.  I want to be real with my friends, but harboring mosquitoes isn't exactly hospitality.  So I would try, I decided, this week...I would weed what I could.

But once I got started, I realized how fun it is to pull weeds when they are seated in soft soil.  Big weeds are easy to pull and they span large areas, so the work is rewarding.  It was satisfying to look up and see the huge area of suddenly clear beauty.  Oh!  I forgot that path was this wide!  and I confess, the other thought was I wonder if I can charm Nick into carrying these huge weed piles away for me. (Yes, you've just stumbled upon a bone of contention in our marriage.)

The pathway
I walked past the raised bed a few times--you see, I was going to skip it entirely.  (I meant it when I said I have no trouble being real with my friends--so what, they see a mountainous weedy "garden".  They'll just feel better about themselves and their own messes.  I consider it a public service.)

But being practical, I realized it would take less than five minutes to clear all those big weeds and then it would be done.  So I went to it and the soil was so drenched that the weeds practically leaped into my arms.  It was (I'm whispering here, ashamed) fun.

Then Aly walked by and Jesus hit me square between the eyes with her question: "Mommy--why are you pulling these weeds?"

I stepped back and looked at the framed garden.  I wasn't going to plant anything here for the year.  It was nice soil, but I had no plans for it.  But here I was, pulling weeds just to leave the ground bare.  I heard the answer bubble up out of my spirit as He whispered it to me... "I'm clearing the soil so Jesus can plant something here."

Now, I'm not saying this as a natural thing, where I think I'm going to walk out there tomorrow and my Love will have placed a zucchini plant just for me.  Though I do love zucchini and would accept them in gratin.

But a powerful parallel of love emerged from my weeded garden.  I looked at the rich, fertile ground, dark and clear and ready.  I realized that the weeds had thrived there, and good plants would too.

But last week, when the weeds were firmly rooted and determined in dry ground, no amount of good intentions on my part would have coaxed the roots of those weeds from the dirt.  I might have cropped them off, level with the ground, so that no one could see them.  But they would have regrown.

Hearts are that way, too.  We redeemed, holy ones like to walk around showing people their weeds or discussing them righteously with our friends.  We fall prey to the temptation to diagnose as a physician, prescribing empty religious techniques--like weed killer, they last for a while, leaving death in their wake and ultimately--the weeds return.  Sometimes what we think are weeds, aren't.

Jesus revealed to me the greatest weed solution of all.  It's so simple.  When we see weeds, instead of hurrying to pull them out prematurely (so our friends don't see them), or ignoring them all together because they are rooted so firmly, we simply lean into Him and whisper from our deepest place:  

Jesus, I need rain.

Ironic, isn't it, that we ask for the very thing that could also encourage the weed to grow?  That's the popular argument against a loving church, isn't it--that our love might validate a man's brokenness?

But it is rain--Love Himself--that liberates.  So we ask for love to loosen the heart.  And then, maybe the weeds grow a little longer.  Maybe a flood falls from the foot of the throne at the moment of your prayer.  But we, His precious ones, position ourselves for our Gardener, The Physician, to soften the places within ourselves--and within those around us whose weeds we see--with His rain, His love, in the perfect amount, at the proper time.  We act as His rain, loving His imperfect people, persistently until the soil permeates and soaks through the cracked places in their hearts.  We provide an environment of rain that, over time, prepares them for freedom.

We are imperfect people working towards Christ's perfection--by definition, we all have weeds.  It's time to stop panicking when we see them, time to stop feeling an immediate personal mandate to clear their impurities.  Our strategy for drive-by deliverance is being overwritten by a echoing call from heaven--to love.  And then, when we see the soil is soft, when we see their hearts have been affected by love in such a way that they are willing, then, gently, in love, and by the roots, we pull.  One at a time, testing to see if they are ready to yield.  If not, we are patient--because He is patient. 

It becomes an act of love, to gently liberate, deliberately, carefully.  One at a time.  We become freedom dealers, surrendering to relationships that last longer than a coffee date, go deeper than a movie night.  We invest our hearts into people, knowing that WE are the rain falling from the skies over a generation of thirsty, hard hearts.  His hands tenderly releasing people from roots of painful conditions.

In this way, as they willingly eject their weeds, they receive a readiness to accept good seeds, and their destiny of fruitfulness is propelled forward.  New, good things are planted.  Life begets life and they, themselves, become eager freedom dealers.  It will become a kingdom wave that will take over the world.  It contains a power that will accomplish what governments and world systems never will.

Today, I'm praying for rain for the weeds.  I'm becoming rain for the hearts overcome by weeds.  Ironically, the rain will set them free.

08 August, 2013

Monster In My Room

So it seems I am something of a children's songwriter.
At least my own kids seem to like my tunes.

Here's one Aly requests fairly often.  It came out of me one day when she was telling me about a "bad dream"...

There's a monster in my room
and he's very very big
and he gets especially ugly
when I try to go to sleep

So I say "Get out!  And go away!
I don't have any time for you-u-u"
And I say "Get out!  And don't come back!
Jesus loves me
and that's a fact!"

So I sleep like a baby
Because Jesus loves me
I don't have to be afraid...

Funny how childrens songs can point right to the heart of an adult issue.
Singing this song with Aly reminds me of my own invincibility because of Jesus' life within me.

Go.  Be invincible.

07 August, 2013

Healing: A Prayer

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here.
Especially while my children are hitting themselves with metal Thomas trains and squealing at each other.  They have yo-yoed from happy shrieks to raging war about three times this morning so far and if the pendulum should swing again, and Your Presence not be with me, I might assign my sweet, grumpy toddlers to manual labor.

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.

I know You're with me, but I need You to swell up here in my spirit.  I feel fragile and alone.

Your Glory, God, is what my heart longs for.

Nothing short of Your Authentic Fingerprint will be enough for me.  I see you everywhere, in so many of my daily experiences.  But the memories of experiences fade.  I need your invasion, in a way my heart understands.

When I am with you, Your purity reveals so many places in me that I didn't know I yielded to:  hopelessness, depression, loneliness, inferiority, loss of vision, numbness.  I love Your way of bringing revelation without a single ounce of guilt or condemnation.  I am completely accepted in You.  I don't need to run anywhere else for help, for prayer, for strength, even for validation or vindication.  You Are Those Things.  I am pressing in to You, stubborn, hungry and without any alternative option.  Restoration and hope are my DNA, because they are Yours.

To be overcome by your Presence, Lord.

Thank you for being jealous of me, that every aching part of me is exposed and transformed into strength and health--because there's not an inch of me that You will leave alone, to remain unredeemed.  I know you are my healer--it is in Your very nature.  I don't even have to ask for it; it is a natural bi-product of our intimacy.  I want only a clearer picture of Your heart for me--it is You, my love--that will reset my heart and mind simply by being there with me.  Topical treatments will be temporary.  I am pursuing the ongoing and complete transformation of Your Spirit.

Let us become more aware of Your Presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness... 

Our togetherness---You and me--sends a pulse into the atmosphere--an aroma, a shout, a call, a beacon--that no profoundly worded, eloquently-delivered prayer of deliverance or battle ever could.  The chemistry of the world around me is completely altered.  The rules of the game change.

I am tuning out every remaining voice, every memorized tactic and every worn-out cliche.  I will be faithful to be still, here in You, as You work out my healing, as you transform my broken places into treasure.  You are singing songs of sleep over my panicky, anxious soul (what bliss to walk out of that constant weakness), and the thunder of heaven is awakening my spirit.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here...

Peace be still, my troubled soul.  Jesus is here.  Be at rest, be in His worship.  The work He started will be completed.